Scotland - Top Bike Climbs

#1
Bealach na Ba (SW #69)
United Kingdom
#2
Bealach na Ba (Applecross)
United Kingdom
#3
Mull of Kintyre
United Kingdom
#4
Kenmore Hill
United Kingdom
#5
Cairn O' Mount (SW #64)
United Kingdom
#6
Bealach Maim (SW #163)
United Kingdom
#7
Bealach Ratagan (SW #169)
United Kingdom
#8
Craigowl Hill
United Kingdom
#9
Glen Quaich (SW #165)
United Kingdom
#10
Bealach Feith Nan Laogh (SW #166)
United Kingdom

Climb List: Scotland
(sort by distance, difficulty, elevation and more)

Cycling Scotland

photo collage shows Edinburgh Castle, Parliament building, Saint Mary's Cathedral

Upper right: Edinburgh Castle

Lower right: Scottish Parliament Building; Lower left: Saint Mary’s Cathedral.

We traveled the UK for six weeks in 2018 and then to the UK and Ireland for two months in 2022 to document the hardest and most epic bike climbs there.  We have documented 31 bike climbs in Scotland, including the Fiets Index top rated, Simon Warren’s picks for the Top 10 hardest and Top 10 most epic.  Below is a list of our Top 10, and Simon Warren’s Top 10 Most Epic and Top 10 Hardest.

Also see our our general United Kingdom Climbs page, UK Most Epic Bike Climbs (per Simon Warren), and our Simon Warren 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, Britain pages.  

SCOTLAND’S HARDEST BIKE CLIMBS

#3 HARDEST BIKE CLIMB IN SCOTLAND

MULL OF KINTYRE

sharp U shaped turn in roadway at steep gradient

Cycling Mull of Kintyre

Ride 1.3 miles gaining 1,024’ at 13.5% average grade.

Mull of Kintyre is the southernmost tip of Kintyre Peninsula in a very, very remote part of Scotland - it’s a chore to get to, but well worth the trip.  Mull of Kintyre was made wildly famous by Paul McCartney and Wings song by the same name which was the band's biggest hit in Britain.  Paul McCartney has owned High Park Farm, 20 miles north of our start, since 1966.

photo collage shows foggy overcast views along the climb; green pasturelands and steep gradients along the ride

The Mull of Kintyre climb is one of the most remarkable climbs that I have ever done, unquestionably. Situated on the southernmost point of a remote peninsula, the Mull was once used as an access point to Scotland by early humans. Now, a lighthouse stands on the rocky outcrop overlooking the coastline. The road itself is marked as “Not for public use,” but I don’t think you’ll have any issues riding the road on a bicycle. It is a steep “road” which more resembles a walking path. The pavement quality matches the surrounding landscape - rough and rugged. On a clear day, these views are unmatched and simply astounding.

aerial drone view shows roadway snaking up green rocky pastureland

We understand why Paul McCartney wrote longingly about Mull of Kintyre

Mull of Kintyre

Oh, mist rolling in from the sea

My desire is always to be here

Oh, Mull of Kintyre

Far have I traveled and much have I seen

Dark distant mountains with valleys of green

Past painted deserts the sunset's on fire

As he carries me home to the Mull of Kintyre

Mull of Kintyre

Oh, mist rolling in from the sea

My desire is always to be here

Oh, Mull of Kintyre

Sweep through the heather like deer in the glen

Carry me back to the days I knew then

Nights when we sang like a heavenly choir

Of the life and the time of the Mull of Kintyre (Wings, 1977; the bands #1 all-time hit in Britain)

#2 HARDEST BIKE CLIMB IN SCOTLAND

BEALACH NA BA (APPLECROSS) 

panoramic view of Bealach na Bà from Applecross climb, road cuts through center of mountains

Cycling Bealach na Ba from Applecross

Climb 8.3 kilometers gaining 596 meters at 7.2% average grade.

photo collage shows road signs warning of single track, steep, narrow road; PJAMM Cyclist rides on one-lane roadway; aerial drone view shows road snaking across ridgeline

This side of the climb begins in the Scottish Highlands’ village of Shore Street on Applecross Bay.  The ascent from Applecross is statistically just as challenging and nearly as long as the traditional climb from the west.  

#THE HARDEST BIKE CLIMB IN SCOTLAND

BEALACH NA BA, TRADITIONAL ROUTE

panoramic view of Bealach na Bà climb, road cuts through center of mountains

Cycling Bealach na Bà

Ride 5.1 miles gaining 2,019’ at 7.5% average grade.

           

Bealach na Ba is one of the most scenic, challenging and exceptional climbing experiences in the UK.  This road is one the farthest outliers of all the hardest and most epic of Britain’s hill climbs, situated in the far northwestern Highland Council Area of Scotland.  Perhaps the greatest testament to Bealach na Ba is that it is the only climb in the United Kingdom listed in Daniel Friebe’s exceptional climbing books, Mountain High and Mountain Higher (pages 28-31 of Mountain Higher).  This is a bucket-list climb, a chore to get to, but well worth the effort.

photo collage shows roadway snaking through center of green valley

This bike climb is just pure epic and an absolute must for any UK bucket list.

Not only is this the most hardest bike climb in Scotland and #4 UK, it is also ranked by Simon Warren (Top UK Cycling Climbing Books) as the most epic bike climb in all of the United Kingdom (see our UK Top 10 Most Epic Hill Climbs page for more information).

4/10ths mile of serpentine road and hairpins leading to the finish.

“This is it: The Holy Grail, the toughest and wildest climb in Britain.  Anything you have read or been told about this amazing road is likely to be true.  For once, you can believe the hype,” Simon Warren (100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, A Road Cyclist’s Guide to Britain’s Hills, p. 121).

Simon Warren’s Top 10 Hardest Climbs of Scotland are: (1) Bealach na Ba, (2) The Lecht, (3) Mull of Kintyre, (4) Bealach Ratagan, (5) Bealach Udal, (6) Craigowl, (7) Kenmore Hill, (8) Wall of Talla, (9) Lowther Hill, and (10) Bealach Feith Nan Laogh.

MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS IN SCOTLAND - SIMON WARREN LIST 

#5 MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMB IN SCOTLAND

MULL OF KINTYRE

photo collage shows aerial drone view of the Mull of Kintyre lighthouse from the coastline

Historic lighthouse and start of this challenging but very fun climb.

The climb is summarized above at the third hardest bike climb as ranked by the Fiets Index.

photo collage shows views along first part of climb: green grass, rocky pastureland, foggy coastline

#4 MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMB IN SCOTLAND

THE LECHT

Cycling Lecht Road, Scotland - large tablet-shaped stone with poem carved into it, reading "As Still Skies or Storms Unfold", grey skies in background, Simon Warren's 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs #66 logo in corner

Poem on a stone at 800m.    

This 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs climb easily gets a 10/10 for difficulty.  Simon Warren writes of this climb, “a true monster of a climb through the heart of the Cairngorms, the road up to Lecht Ski Centre is a simply stunning ride,” (Simon Warren, 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, A Road Cyclists Guide to Britain’s Hills, p. 117).

Cycling Lecht Road, Scotland - photo collage, road sign for 20% grade, road sign for sharp turn in road, with sticker on it saying "Send It," aerial view of narrow roadway climbing up center of a reddish-brown hillside, sign for Adventure Activity Centre                                   

Lecht Ski Resort boasts the highest roadside bar in Scotland.

#3 MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMB IN SCOTLAND

THE WALL OF TALLA

panoramic view of green hillsides, blue sky, pond in distance

Cycling The Wall of Talla, Scotland

Ride 1.8 kilometers gaining 153 meters at 8.7% average grade.

The Wall of Talla is tucked away in the remote hills of southern Scotland near a number of small lakes. The scenery here is spectacular and would in many countries be considered a National Park. But this is Scotland and lakes are a dime a dozen, and you’ll likely have the views to enjoy all alone. The climb rises above the lake for the first half, then you’ll cross a bridge that takes you behind the hill and to the summit for the climb. Double digit grades make the climb tough, but the scenery is so breathtaking that you’ll likely not even notice the tough grades. This was our first Scottish climb of our 2022 trip in the UK and really got us excited to explore the rest of the country.

photo collage shows road sign warning of 20% gradient, peaceful green hillsides and country road

This is a quiet, peaceful, and very scenic bike climb.

#2 MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMB IN SCOTLAND

MAOVALLY

aerial view shows panoramic view of Moavally bike climb in Scotland; roadway loops around center of green mountainside

Cycling Maovally, Scotland

Ride 3.2 miles gaining 1,058’ at 6.3% average grade.

In his X-List Simon Warren writes of this wonderful and remote bike climb:

“There are no words to describe the magnificence of this road, no adequate superlatives nor flowery prose could every come close to doing it justice. . . A service road for two small power stations, well surfaced, closed to traffic but open to the public and situated in some of the most pristine scenery in all of Scotland, it is all but PERFECT.”

photo collage shows aerial drone view of roadway looping around green mountainside; PJAMM Cyclist on bike in one-lane roadway

Maovally is in the far north of Scotland and accessed by traveling down some very remote and narrow backroads. I was not able to drive to the precise start point of the climb, as it was gated off by a power company. I parked about four miles away on a pull off on the A838 highway and rode into the start point. There is a gate for pedestrians, so you won’t need to hop any fences or break any rules to ride the climb, it seems the gate is just to keep motor traffic out. Our route starts at a nondescript section of road adjacent to the lake. You’ll enjoy having the narrow road and stunning views all to yourself here. A few turns and tough gradients wrap around the mountain and take you to the summit point which is unmarked. Unlike many of the Scottish climbs that are well-known cycling and hiking destinations, Maovally is remote and seemingly unknown.

SIMON WARREN’S MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMB IN SCOTLAND

BEALACH NA BA

photo collage shows beginning of climb on Applecross Pass road

Bealach na Ba is summarized above as the most difficult bike climb in Scotland.

bike parked against guardrail overlooking green valley

The remainder of Simon Warren’s Top 10 Most Epic Bike Climbs in Scotland are: (6) The String, (7) Nick of the Balloch, (8) Ben Lawers, (9) Quiraing, and (10) Lowther Hill.